Food, Sacrifice, Tapas & Giving – Bhagavad Gita, Ch 17, Vs 11-22

Faith

In these verses Lord Krishna is answering Arjuna’s question on Faith. He began His answer with Sacrifice in verses 2 – 10. The following verses are expansions on this answer and include not only sacrifice, but foods, kinds of austerities (tapas) and giving.

Previously:
Arjuna spoke: “What is the status of those who sacrifice without consideration of scriptural injunctions but sacrifice with faith? Is it sattva, rajas or tamas?” — chapter 17, verse 1.

Foods

7 – 10
Like sacrifices, austerities and gifts, the foods preferred by all are of three kinds. Now hear of these distinctions:

The kinds of foods mentioned in these three verses have their roots in times before the Indus Valley Civilization.Sattvic Foods

(8) Foods that are sweet, succulent, juicy, nourishing and promote life, energy, strength, health, happiness and satisfaction, are dear to the sattvic.

Foods that are sweet, etc. Refined sugar is not what is meant by ‘sweet’, but is considered to be ‘stale’.

Rajasic Foods(9) Foods that are very bitter, very sour, very salty, very hot, very pungent, very dry and burning, are dear to the rajasic, are unpleasant and cause misery and disease.

Too much bitterness, etc. In moderation, these kinds of foods are anti-inflammatory and healing. The admonition is to not take it too far and cancel their positive effects, as rajasic persons are inclined to do. 

(10) Foods that are stale, tasteless, putrid, rotten, foul, impure, and also the leavings of others, are dear to the tamasic.Tamasic Foods

Stale, etc. You may wonder how anyone could even eat these kinds of foods. Anandamayi Ma insisted that no food be left at the end of the day in Her ashram. On one occasion, She was found in the night eating left over flour to make her point. Old foods are dead foods. 

Sacrifice 

11 – Sattvic Sacrifice
Sacrifice that is offered according to scriptural injunction with the only thought, “this is given.” This sacrifice is sattvic.

Sacrifice offered without the purpose of fruits (without using your will to fulfill desires) is sattvic.

12 – Rajasic Sacrifice
But sacrifice offered out of pride and deceit, with the intent of personal benefit, that sacrifice is rajasic

13 – Tamasic Sacrifice
Sacrifice offered without faith and contrary to scriptural injunction, with no food offered, and with no mantras or giving, that sacrifice is tamasic.

Austerity (Tapas)

Austerity of Body

14
Honoring God, the twice-born (Brahmanas, God-people), gurus and sages, through purity, goodness, continence and non-violence, is austerity (tapas) of the body.

  • Twice-born – ‘born again’ or ‘reborn’.

Today, the usual translation of Brahmanas means priests. However, God-people are those who live in harmony with the Real. It is the purpose of their lives. Brahmanas (or Brahmins, temple priests) have more recently (a few thousand years ago) been set aside as the highest caste, but also rightly include scholars, teachers, gurus and sages.

Purity, goodness, continence and non-violence in all your actions is Tapas of Body. 

Austerity of Speech

15
The practice of reciting sacred texts, and the use of words that do not cause distress and are truthful, inoffensive and beneficial, is austerity (tapas) of speech. 

Tantric yogi reciting mantra then drinking whiskey from a skull.
Tantric yogi reciting mantra and drinking whiskey from a skull.

Reciting sacred texts also means reading and study of sacred texts. This was written at a time when not everyone could read and the memorization and recitation of scriptures was customary.

Tapas refers to purification by fire (energy). This is different than the elimination of impurities.

When you are careful not to cause distress when speaking, reciting or teaching, and being truthful in an inoffensive manner that is also beneficial, this is the Tapas of Speech.

Austerity of Mind

16
Clear-mindedness, gentleness, monitoring speech, self-restraint and pure-heartedness, is austerity of mind.

Clear-minded also means peaceful or serene. Monitoring speech also means silence. Self-restraint is self-control. Pure-heartedness is sincerity and empathy. 

Austerities of Body, Speech and Mind

17 – 19
(17) These three austerities — body, speech and mind — practiced with ardent faith by those without expectation of return benefit, are sattvic austerities that last.

(18) Austerities undergone with pride and for the purpose of gaining honor, respect and adoration, are rajasic, unsteady and impermanent.

(19) Austerities performed out of ignorance that torture oneself, or for the purpose of destroying or overpowering others, are tamasic.

Giving

20 – 22
Feeding the needy(20) Gifts given at the proper time and place, without expectation of reward, to worthy persons who have done no prior favor, with the only idea, “this is given,” is sattvic giving.

(21) But gifts given grudgingly, with the aim of personal benefit or the expectation of reward, is rajasic giving.

(11) Gifts given at the wrong time and place to the unworthy without paying respect, but with contempt, is said to be tamasic giving.

Namaste (I bow to the divine one that you really are),
Durga Ma
durgama.com

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2 thoughts on “Food, Sacrifice, Tapas & Giving – Bhagavad Gita, Ch 17, Vs 11-22

  1. katritam

    Dear Durga Ma,

    With respect to Austerity of Mind and especially “Self-restraint is self-control”, I have always found it extremely difficult, especially to use restraint in eating. While I am nearly always aware that my body is not hungry, I find more often than not I allow my mind to run the show and dash to the fridge or cupboard to find something to nosh on. Having gained a substantial amount of weight, this has not enhanced my sadhana. On the one hand, surrounding to God and allowing what happens to happen is good, in my opinion, however, when my body wants to move in meditation, it is often difficult to accomplish. And then I have grief or something else to deal with because I want to allow the energy to move as God directs through surrender.

    There have been occasions where I have lost quite a bit of weight and feel great! Yet mind creeps in and all is lost or actually “gained” again. At the moment I have begun a program that uses Amino Acids to help curb appetite and in my case the mind is finally quiet! And I am not running to the fridge, ever..weight is falling off and I have absolutely no hunger in between meals.

    Now, how to develop self-restraint, especially after the program is over and I have lost the weight. “Trying” doesn’t make it. Perhaps “desire” in the right context, as in deeper surrender to God, is the answer, I don’t know.

    Love,
    Ritam

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Ritam,

      Because we live in these bodies (Nature) we can only do the best we can, firstly by surrendering completely in our ‘meditation’, then doing so outside our meditation as well (at our age and stage). But we can only do the best we can. There is a big world of people out there where the only priority is the self — not us, not others, and certainly not God. This affects our ability to succeed in full surrender. (Personally, I am through with taking the rap for this.) Engaging in grief over failure and all the other things our mind gives us to think about and to do, only makes it more difficult and throws us back into the “Trying” lane where our surrender is incomplete. You said it right when you said, “… surrendering to God and allowing what happens to happen is good, in my opinion.” I agree. Maybe the key to resolving this is found in this little ditty I learned in Sunday School: “Keep your eye on the sparrow,” that aggressive little bird who steals from of vegetable gardens everywhere! The key, then, is Awareness of what it going on. We notice, and we walk on before self-judgement sets in.

      As to Desire, I think the real beast is Attachment, not desire. As long as you have a physical body you will have desires. It is when we are Attached to a desire that we are under its control.

      Love,
      Durga Ma

      Like

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